Founded in 1386, it is the oldest university in Germany and was the third university established in the Holy Roman Empire. Heidelberg has been a coeducational institution since 1899. Today the university consists of twelve faculties and offers degree programmes at undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral levels in some 100 disciplines. It is a German Excellence University, as well as a founding member of the League of European Research Universities and the Coimbra Group. The language of instruction is usually German.
Rupert I, Elector Palatine established the university when Heidelberg was the capital of the Electoral Palatinate. Consequently, it served as a centre for theologians and law experts from throughout the Holy Roman Empire. Matriculation rates declined with the Thirty Years’ War, and the university did not overcome its fiscal and intellectual crises until the early 19th century. Subsequently, the institution once again became a hub for independent thinkers, and developed into a “stronghold of humanism”, and a centre of democratic thinking. At this time, Heidelberg served as a role model for the implementation of graduate schools at American universities. However, the university lost many of its dissident professors and was marked a NSDAP university during the Nazi era (between 1933 and 1945). It later underwent an extensive denazification after World War II—Heidelberg serving as one of the main scenes of the left-wing student protests in Germany in the 1970s.